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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  July 6, 2013 9:00am-10:31am EDT

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the cycle of crashes in boom and bust times in american history and it argues that the crash of 2008 was just a prelude to the big crash coming in 2016 and how they oligarchs and the big money, the people on the who own the government are actually heading is towards disaster. >> that is a preview of some of the titles coming out by 12. this is booktv on c-span2. ..
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i am not a physicist. my background is in philosophy. i wrote biographies, maybe i should start by saying how did i get to write a biography of oppenheimer, why did it occur to me to do that? it began 12 years ago when the newspaper asked me to review a collection of his correspondence and up until that point on a new about oppenheimer only what everybody knows about oppenheimer, that he directed the las alamos laboratory, he had security clearance taken away from him, he was director of the institute of princeton, that is all of a new. i didn't know that he wrote poetry. i didn't know that he wrote short stories. that he was an expert in french
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literature, that he was, taught himself sanskrit, that he was deeply interested in hinduism, that he taught himself sanskrit in order to read the hindu classics in their original language. neither did i know about his political activities in any detail in the 1930s or his relations with his friends and students and family members. all of which i find absolutely fascinating. i said in the review there is an interesting biography to be written of oppenheimer and after this was published publishers got in touch saying why don't you do it and so i did and took me 11 years. is an incredibly rich and absorbing and fascinating life. there wasn't a single day in those 11 years that i lost interest in my subject. i continue to find out new
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things about him and he is i guess like most complicated complex people, you never feel as if you have exhausted the subject which brings me to my subtitle, a light inside the center. why inside the center? the phrase conjures up a number of things that come together in a light and personality of j. robert oppenheimer. the most obvious of which i guess is his work as a physicist, shoved it was to do with understanding the forces that happen inside the center of an atomic nucleus and that his great importance, historically and politically is directing the laboratory that made use of those forces to construct and explosive of previously unimagined power. that is one reason. the other thing, another thing the phrase conjures up that is
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to do with robert oppenheimer is to do with his background and he grew up in manhattan a member of in some sense an elite but also with a conscious awareness from a jewish family wasn't quite accepted by the establishment of america and much of what he did throughout his life was determined by his desire to get inside the center of american intellectual and political life and also in france he wanted to be at the center if not inside the center of what was happening at all stages in his career and that too had a great influence on various decisions that he made throughout his life. as to do one thing rather than another because it would place inside the center said to speak. and then the final thought that the phrase inside the center conjures up relevant to my
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efforts in writing the biography is i wanted to get inside oppenheimer's mind, i wanted to write a biography trying to draw all these things i found in the correspondence, the interest in literature, the short short story writing, the political involvement. the challenge is to bring all that together and described as it were what was motivating oppenheimer, the way he saw himself and the world. snow in a way no wonder it took me 11 years. to begin at the beginning of this is oppenheimer, this is the town in germany, a wine growing area by the rhine. in 1808 when napoleon degree of jewish families, they haven't had additional surnames, wasn't part of their culture, many
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jewish families took the name of their employer. my previous employer -- my previous subject, his great-grandfather worked for the -- many people, many jews who lived in oppenheim chose the name oppenheimer said any immediately identified as a jew and as descended from people who lived in oppenheim as his ancestors did and you can see from this photograph it changed remarkably little. this is 1847, the present day, still very much recognizably the same place. why would he move from that lovely place? the jewish families, the jewish culture in germany tried very hard to assimilate into german society throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
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century, there was a movement, the german jewish version of the enlightenment that tried to overcome the barriers the separated them from the rest of german society so instead of hebrew being their language of worship they adopted german. they didn't have separate education, they tried all the things they could to overcome those barriers. what they found was they still weren't accepted, they were still laws relating specifically to the jews in germany saying what kind of jobs they could do, do they could marry, where they could live and someone. thus began a movement away from germany looking towards the united states at a place where they could be freed from the restrictions they were facing in germany. at this point, to the united states, expressing those hopes. america has it better than our
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ancient ancestors, the reflection in of reflective world, the glorious spring and saying made a good genius guard them from the tradition. so the four periods, the united states is a sheet of blank paper free from all these races of the past, the castles, robbers, barron's, free from the european traditions that are holding them back, a sheet of blank paper on which they could write their own destiny, those of the hope that motivated the movement of many german people, german jewish people from germany to the united states. to historians, jewish historians it has become known as the second migration. the first jewish community in the united states as a result of the first migration was mainly jews who had been expelled from
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spain and portugal in the seventeenth century. they came to manhattan and other parts of the united states. by 1814 there were 15,000 jews in the state the vast majority of term were hasidic jews, then came the second generation on a much larger scale, families like the oppenheimers and the goldmans, the sacks, many of those families, their hopes were realized, they came to germany, some of them penniless, within a generation they were some of the richest 22 in the united states and certainly didn't feel held back by their german this or their jewishness. the german jews by 1880, 280,000, far larger, and they were ambivalent about this because suddenly the german jews were the acknowledged leaders of the jewish community. in new york city as well as in
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the rest of america. then came the third migration. this is a different kind of thing, polish and russian jews, not looking for a blank sheet of paper or a fresh start but literally fleeing for their lives. vast hordes of them, the huddled masses as it were between 1880 and 1920 and the numbers on a different order entirely, two.five million. oppenheimer grew up at a time when the jewish community in the united states generally and in new york city particularly was undergoing a kind of split between the rather impoverished mostly impoverished russian and polish jews, eastern european jews, the center of their community was the lower east side. oppenheimer was from the more established german jewish families, and by the end of the nineteenth century lot of those
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families became very wealthy and move to the upper west side which is where oppenheimer grew up. some of the tensions that are shown in the descriptions of oppenheimer you get from some of his friends, his jewish friends came from eastern european jewish family and started life in the lower east side and moved out but robbie said about oppenheimers that he mapped an identity because he was constantly trying to pretend to be some things that he wasn't and the reason for that is because of his ambivalent relationship with his tradition, with his jewish, robbie said the when he looked at a synagogue he could say these are my people. oppenheimer couldn't and neither could many of the german jewish families.
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oppenheimer's father was julius oppenheimer who like many people of his generation came to the united states as a young man, preceded by his uncle solomon, and sigmund rothschild who had been here for 20 years and established a very successful business in manhattan, a clothing business, sperm and company and they were established, already moved to the upper west side, the german jewish families have a phrase our crowd, and the intermingling with each other and intermarried and consciously cohesive group of people who recognize the membership. solomon and segment were part of our crowd, centered in the upper west side. julius oppenheimer arrived in new york, and was given a job in the clothing firm and worked his
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way up and became director of the company and a wealthy man himself. wealthy enough to buy the whole eleventh floor of this incredibly valuable piece of real estate 155 riverside drive where oppenheimer grew up. his parents as they bought the 11 -- 15 riverside drive is -- overlooks the hudson river and it was very much at the heart of this community, the hour crowd community, the neighbors would have included guggenheim and shifts and so on. that particular address is famous to a second-generation because it was the home, setting of the sitcom will and grace 155
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riverside drive. one of the important determining factors in chasing oppenheimer was the ethical culture society which grew out of archive, the german jewish community based on the west side of manhattan and it was the brainchild, who was the son of the rabbi, which was the synagogue, and and the aim was to preserve what he thought was best in the jewish tradition. leaving behind any beliefs that have no rational justification. as part of the enlightenment tradition, it was a religion of deed, not of creed, a way of life, by ethical precepts. adopting obligations to help in this society in which we grew up and the people around them.
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rather than being defined in terms of what he did or did not believe and this ethical culture society grew very quickly after being set up following felix adler's sermonette few days into the future in 1873 ended attracted to it many of the people i have been mentioning, the morgantowns, the guggenheims and solomon and sigmund oppenheimer became fervent members of the ethical culture society, so did julius oppenheimer and therefore that was the society in which oppenheimer, robert oppenheimer grew up. he went to the ethical culture school. shaped the way, an obligation to american life particularly because part of this outlook that was spread by the ethical culture society including by
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school, was a certain conception of america as the land of the free, the land that preserve individual liberties and oppenheimer grew up believing he never once abandoned that belief and it was central to the ethical culture society but it was in the americas that one could be what one was supposed to be, one could fulfil one's potential. oppenheimer grew up in a wealthy family. his mother was an artist, with very great taste in art and a quiet paintings which became immensely valuable. he bought renuarts, picasso, than go, and these were on the wall of oppenheimer's childhood home. when his brother frank oppenheimer later in life lost his job because he was a
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communist, frank had only to sell one of these paintings to provide for himself and his family in great style for the rest of his life. a very wealthy family, they lacked for nothing, whenever oppenheimer showed an interest in anything, and interest in painting, his parents would buy him the best paint and the best easel and interesting building blocks, a passionate interest in rocks, collecting rocks and he joined the neurological society in new york and arranged to give a paper at the grand old age of 12, he was 12 years old when he delivered a paper to the scholarly society in manhattan. one thing he didn't have much of as a child is fun. he had very few playmates, he went to school rather late, he
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was 12 when he went to school, he was intellectually precocious and overly serious child. without any idea how to make friends. his fellow students all came from the same background. he went to the ethical culture school and the lived in the upper west side, they were all from german/jewish families and he found it rather hard to fit in. mainly because of the strategies he adopted to fit in. one girl remembers ask me a question in latin and i will answer you in greek. which is enormously impressive but not the way to win school friends. it was a fairly isolated childhood marked my intellectual distinction and and the only
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close friend he made, a glaring exception to the uniformity of their backgrounds which was and noble, a light and ferguson, francis ferguson didn't come from new york and was in from a jewish family or a german family, francis ferguson had grown up in the west in new mexico, his family was distinguished but in a different way from the bankers and closures and so on in man and. the fergusons were a pioneering family, they had gone -- romantic thing to do to moved to new mexico and his father, francis ferguson's father was the first representative in the house of representatives in the state of new mexico and they live in a very grand, the oldest house in albuquerque, a
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beautiful house. and when oppenheimer finished at the ethical culture school. and it became quite an important part of his life and outlook. new mexico was for him the ideal so when much later in life he was asked to become a director of the atomic bomb laboratory, persuaded the general and had to be in a remote place and said i know exactly the place and it was here in new mexico which he discovered through his connection with frances ferguson. also with france's ferguson he formed a close friendship and ferguson had a friend called paul horgan who also grew up in new mexico. it formed what they called a troika.
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they shared an interest in writing. francis ferguson came from a family that wrote and what they wrote about was the southwest, the romance, the history of the southwest. his brother became a famous novelist, his sister wrote about the food of the southwest, the rituals of the kobe indians, france's ferguson wrote stories, paul horgan wrote stories and j. robert oppenheimer wrote stories, and they form the closely knit group of three young men all of whom aspired to be writers. oppenheimer should have started in harvard in 1921. that is when france's ferguson started at harvard. oppenheimer in the summer of 2
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and went to europe as a young man and a child and returned very ill and had to spend the year convalescing and part of which he spent in new mexico. he was a year behind ferguson and arrived at harvard in 1922, a significant moment for harvard. quite shocking from the researching the history of this, realize that institutional prejudice against jews was so fierce, not that long ago, 1922. what we find in 1922 is the president of harvard one thing to persuade his colleagues to adopt quote as for the number of jews that they could admit to harvard. because he had been allowed to discover what happened at columbia university in new york where the proportion of jews had
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crept beyond 40%, shouldn't happen at harvard, and national controversy debated at harvard everywhere. what is remarkable to me is when you look at oppenheimer's correspondence be summer before harvard, not to mention the controversy, is as if he didn't want to identify himself as having anything to do with it. he went to harvard and always got a split in oppenheimer between how he sees himself and how he is seen by the world's. by this moment in time he is seen as a german jew. he is quite emphatic in almost everything he wrote. he didn't see himself as chairman or jewish, as far as he was concerned he was american.
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and in the german jewish family couldn't join the best clubs, no matter how wealthy he was, he couldn't move into the most fashionable student halls and so despite his best intentions his circle of friends at harvard was very small and restricted to people like him. he went to harvard to study chemistry. one of his friends was william boyd. and eminent chemist. his friend frederick bernstein was identical to oppenheimer, and on riverside drive. and also german jews from that part of manhattan and those two are the only friends oppenheimer made at harvard, and france as
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ferguson was already there. wasn't a great time for him socially but it was intellectually tremendously exciting, he took far more courses than he needed to take and far wider variety of courses. he enrolled at harvard as a chemistry student, took courses in french literature, british history, all sorts of things and he became very interested in physics. his first scientific love was chemistry. it really excited him to understand the structure of elements. and he read independently about what was then called quantum physics, of einstein and frank and -- mack plank and the work done on the structure of the
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nucleus. he read about a new picture of the atom whether positively charged nucleus is surrounded by negatively charged electrons and oppenheimer became excited by developments in physics and was a first-year student at harvard, undergraduate first-year student but made the unusual request to the physics department that he should be allowed to take graduate level courses in physics. because he wanted to acquire a mastery of the newly discovered history of quantum physics. he wrote saying can i take physics course 60 -- and he lifted a bunch of books, and what he read. robert was talking about his experience in holland, i am
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rather hopeless that acquiring new languages. oppenheimer was dismayingly brilliant at it. having only been in holland for a month or so before doing that in dutch. when he was lecturing in california, he persuaded a student of his to take over the course and the student said what is the curriculum and oppenheimer said don't worry, it is all on the books so he went away and the students found out the book was in dutch and when oppenheimer came back the student prince treated with him and said it is such easy dutch. so that was -- so he was -- enormously brilliant. but he didn't have the background you expected graduate student to have. the physics department at harvard allowed him to take graduate courses in physics even though he hadn't had that
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background and that partially accounts for one of the oddities of oppenheimer's physics. is physics is always brilliant but his calculations are always wrong. one of the reasons for that is he didn't have the background you would expect a physicist have. he went straight from undergraduate chemistry to graduate level physics and all the background that should be in place so his education was a curious mixture of knowing the great deal you wouldn't expect him to know and not knowing a lot of stuff you would expect him to know. anyway, from the second year onwards he concentrated on physics, because he perceived to be cavendish laboratory in cambridge to be the center of development in physics he applied -- one thing about that is don't laboratory is a
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laboratory and experimental physics going on and as the physics teacher at harvard wrote to rutherford in cambridge oppenheimer is a nice, clever young man but not particularly good in the laboratory. because of that rutherford actually turned oppenheimer down as a research student, the very first experience of academic rejection, oppenheimer had ever had. on the other hand he was accepted by christ's college cambridge. so when he went to cambridge in the summer of 25 it was the humiliating position of entering cambridge as an undergraduate having graduated from harvard. he was a member of christ college but officially for the time being an undergraduate member of christ college but he was given some space in the laboratory and made it clear to
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everybody concerned that his real name was to be a research physicist. to begin with, they made some attempt to repair the holes in his ability in the laboratory. they appointed one of his bright young famous, teach oppenheimer the ways of experimental physics and the laboratory. that was the most unhappy period of oppenheimer's life. she couldn't masters that. he had his first case of rejection and his first piece of failure for the first time in his life in delectably he couldn't do the things he was expected to do. all the things in the laboratory, he wasn't very good at it. it induced a nervous breakdown towards the end of 1925.
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he was undergoing episodes that you have to call psychotic. people at the laboratory remember him standing in front of a blackboard, he was supposed to be giving a presentation of what work he had been doing at that time and stood in front of the backboard with a piece of chalk in his hand repeating over and over again the point is the point is, the point is until eventually somebody assured him away and obviously deeply unhappy and deeply distressed. there are some very odd things reported about oppenheimer particularly in the first six months at cambridge, in england and it is very difficult to know how much credence to give his report. to start with one of the odd ones there is not much doubt about at the end of his first term at cambridge for the
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christmas vacation he went to europe and harris and joined by france's ferguson who he tried to kill. when ferguson was in his room oppenheimer produced a leather strap from patrol, wound around ferguson's neck and tried to strangle him to death. ferguson was bigger and stronger than oppenheimer who was able to shake them off. ferguson's account of that, oppenheimer's letter to ferguson apologizing, i don't much doubt that happened but another even odder thing which is according to some accounts including oppenheimer's own account he tried to help peter patrick blackett, tried to murder him by leaving a poison apple on his desk, charged with symbolic significance. snow white and so on. whether he did that i am
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inclined to think he did but there is no incontrovertible evidence that he did that. there is very definite evidence that the authorities at cambridge university became very alarmed at what was happening to him. his parents came over from america to visit him and discuss his situation with the authorities at cambridge. they allow him to continue as a student at cambridge unconditioned that he get psychiatric help. one of the miraculous thing this year is within a few months by the spring of 1926 oppenheimer seems to have shaken off all of that a anxiety, psychosis, and seems to be flourishing. why is that? is it because of the psychiatric help he received? i am inclined to think it is because he turned his attention from experimental physics which he was frustratingly bad act,
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experimental physics and theoretical physics which he became strikingly good at, this is a terribly exciting period in the history of the their theoretical physics, the period when very young men, surprisingly young men were making fundamental contributions to our understanding of the fundamental forces of the physical world, including the development preeminently the development of quantum mechanics by heisenberg and paul dirac at cambridge the same time as oppenheimer. in that year, the very first set of lectures on the newly developed subject of quantum mechanics and oppenheimer attended them, became very absorbent those questions, discuss it with paul dirac, and when max born -- sorry. when max born who features here came to cambridge to give a talk he was introduced by rutherford
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to oppenheimer and the two began to discuss board interpretation of quantum mechanics which became part of the copenhagen interpretation and oppenheimer became impressive during that meeting but boren said to him exceptionally, and in a professor. also at that time oppenheimer met one of the leading physicists in the movement, the great danish physicist who have already done pioneering work a little bit older than heisenberg and paul dirac, fundamentally important work, fundamental model of the nucleus.
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and everyone oppenheimer admired and as a scientist and a man, the ideal, 0 who the most looked up to, and left cambridge and went here. at cambridge he had been floundering and was confident and suave, and max born. had no objective reason to be intimidated by this young man. max born fundamental contributions to physics himself. and was not just impressed by intimidated by oppenheimer, oppenheimer completed his ph.d. within a few months, and collaborated with mack's board. in the space of less than a year
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went to somebody in the depths of a deep depression to somebody who collaborated riding joined papers, of the leading scientists in the world and they made a famous contribution to physics, born oppenheimer approximation and a look at clinton chemistry you will seek the oppenheimer approximation of energy in a molecule and it is part of -- still alive today. within a few months of being there. exciting things were happening in physics in europe in that period in a great demand than america, people trained, in europe generally. by the time he finished in the
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summer of 1927, in great demand had job offers, accepting the job until he had done more studying himself. back in america as postdoctoral fellow, in caltech, feature a lot of papers in that period contributing to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, and needed to go back to europe. as a feature in this year ago he finds himself in the right place at the right time. he went back -- partly because
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he didn't really feel there was the center of cutting edge events. and the idea of studying with heisenberg, they had a wonderful photograph taken by another physicist by rudolph piles, a post of student, on a boat, i love this picture, it is so characteristic of all of them. and looking puzzled, looking like the last one you would want in charge of your boat. and in the camera, so wonderfully captures what people say, you can see his demonic
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grin here. and the calculations of being wrong and he didn't spare his tongue with oppenheimer but he was doing fundamentally important work, working with heisenberg's on a subject that became quantum electrodynamics at oppenheimer again learned that firsthand what this work was about, contributed to it, contributed three man paper written jointly by oppenheimer, heisenberg and carefully. by the time he finished he could go back to america armed with all the latest developments in theoretical physics. they had a very similar experience in europe. on the one hand they were terribly excited by the physics they were learning and on the other hand they were annoyed at the condescension shown to american physicists by leading europeans of that day and both
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of them went back to america with the same intention to build up theoretical physics in the united states of america and make a world center and surpassed the centers of zurich and so on. that is what they did remarkably in the 1930s. oppenheimer because he was in such demand was able to dictate his terms and the terms were unusual ones. and he spent six months of the year in berkeley in northern california and moved down to pasadena and spent the of the six months of the year, his reason for doing that was caltech was already an established center of physics. he wanted to be at caltech to be discussing physics with the leading physicist in the united states but also wanted at berkeley a clean sheet to build
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his own school of theoretical physics and that is what he did. he succeeded in his ambition in the 1930s, berkeley had been a fairly undistinguished center of physics. within ten years by the 1930s oppenheimer built it up into one of the leading if not the leading school of theoretical physics in the united states and in the process made the united states a far bigger player on the world stage. he did that by his charisma, intelligence, he went to some schools, persuaded them to come to berkeley and within a few years some of the best graduate students in physics were gravitating to berkeley to do their ph.d.s with oppenheimer including this man who became a close friend of oppenheimer's as
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did many of his students. one thing that really helped is at the same time at berkeley ernest morris is not a great physicist but won a nobel prize for an important invention of the cyclotron, lawrence was a great scientific a entrepreneur who attracted big funding to berkeley to build ever bigger cyclotrons and was the beginning of the period of big science. what that allow at berkeley was an arrangement where lawrence, his own laboratory, well funded, attracting good students and good money to do experiment work. oppenheimer setting up an important -- they were close friends in the 30s at they collaborated with each other with the result the experimental work in the theoretical work could go hand in hand and feed
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off of each other so it wouldn't be unusual for lawrence's students to present a problem in interpreting the results, experimental results to oppenheimer and his students who would then report back on what they thought was going on. likewise oppenheimer and his students could say we formed a hypothesis on the basis of this or that theoretical consideration and lawrence and his students could devise experiments moving forward. for collaboration of lawrence and a oppenheimer with the experiment and 30. during that time oppenheimer kept up his love of new mexico. he bought a wooden house here, can't quite see the house has absolutely splendid view and when oppenheimer was first brought by somebody who was
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interested in negotiating a deal the first thing oppenheimer said when he saw this was hot dog. the agent said why don't you call it that only in spanish? so that is what it is called. he is to invite students, they had a great time, they would indeed very much, wasn't very much to eat and what there was to weed was unbearably spicy and was washed down with a lot of liquor but it became a center where oppenheimer could take his students. lawrence was a frequent visitor. it became a refuge for oppenheimer and his circle. talking about his circle, his relationship with his students that got oppenheimer into politics, prior to that he showed no interest in politics whatsoever. to quite an extreme extent he didn't even know the crash
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happened in 1929, lawrence mentioned it to him and was amazed that oppenheimer knew nothing about it. he began to take notice of these events when he began to see that his students were affected by the economy so to speak. if they were getting jobs at all the beginning low-paid blue-collar kind of jobs. they reacted to that by becoming radically left wing in their politics and that drew oppenheimer into left-wing political activity on the west coast and that tendency was strengthened by the fact that his first serious lover was also part of the left-wing seen in california, member of the communist party and drew oppenheimer further into that,
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as did one of his colleagues at berkeley who taught french literature and was also a member of the communist party. a mixture of his lover, his friends and his students got oppenheimer not into the communist party, never formally a member of the communist party but he once said he joined every communist front organization on the west coast. so he would go to fund-raising parties, he would attend meetings to discuss ideas, he would take part in demonstrations caught all of which were dominated by members of the communist party. these four people in the middle here, joe weinberg, david belem, max friedman, all students of oppenheimer's, all members of the communist party and this photograph was to have a deep and unhappy influence on all of their lives. the photograph was taken by a street photographer. young physics graduate student, all friends together and they
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had just come out of campus at berkeley and saw this, thought it would be a nice idea to have their picture taken so took their picture, got a copy of it, what they did know is they were being followed by the fbi because they discovered that he was involved in communist party activities including the possible supplying to the soviet consulate in san francisco with secret material and he was followed everywhere so the fbi guy when this photographer took this picture went to the street photographer and said thank you very much and this picture was put on the file of all these people, they knew who it was, this picture enabled them to identify joe weinberg, david bowen and max friedman and consequently all four of them found it impossible to find
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secure employment, they would be puzzled at being offered job and withdrawn a few months later and it was because they had been marked by the fbi as potential subversives. by this time oppenheimer himself, they started their own file on oppenheimer during this period which became one of the things we spent a lot of time doing in my research on the book was going through the fbi file which you have access through the library of congress. it is really huge. the fbi at various times, his office phone, microphones on the walls of his house, they followed him everywhere at various times and what they created was immensely biographical results. of no particular interest to
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national security. and there is a transcript of the phone with his wife so he wanted to marry someone who didn't want to marry him so he married kitty who is a member of the communist party. in their conversation where he is phoning home and kitty says what is that noise? there was noise on the line and oppenheimer says that will be the fbi hanging out. this is written into the transcript. despite all of that oppenheimer was the choice of general growth to head the laboratory that produced the first atomic bomb. what has happened in the 30s? sedition had been discovered, neils bohr realized in order to get a workable atomic bomb you need to separate uranium 235
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from 238, and when he realized that he said you will never build a bomb because you don't know how to separate enough of this isotope 235. neils bohr said you had to turn the whole united states into a factory. such was general groves's will, he was a fed student. another aspect of his will was oppenheimer was made director of the laboratory. it is hard to stress enough what an unlikely choice that was. as i have been emphasizing of an honor wasn't an experimental physicist. he was notoriously bad in the laboratory. and verify or he had never done any laboratory work and certainly had never run a laboratory. somebody said about oppenheimer he never read anything. he couldn't run a hamburger store let alone a laboratory.
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in addition to all that groves pleaded with a edgar hoover, he is a communist and might supply secrets to the soviet union. despite all that groves appointed oppenheimer. the question is why? groves had been given the job of pushing this thing forward. it has been established more or less that theoretically it was possible to build a very powerful explosive utilizing the energy released in the fission process. it seemed possible that it could be done so groves was given the job of getting it done. he met with some of the leading scientists who were involved in this work. he met with enrico fermi, he was dismayed, these meetings did not
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fill him with joy at all for two reasons. when he couldn't understand a word they said. and they didn't seem to him much like people who were concerned with getting the job done. however when he went to berkeley to meet with ernest lawrence who introduced him to oppenheimer, oppenheimer as would become apparent later on in television program robert mentioned oppenheimer was brilliant at explaining things and oppenheimer gave groves a course on fission and isotopes separation and all of that and in addition to that oppenheimer was burning with ambition for getting this job done because oppenheimer was haunted by the thought that the germans would get there first. hy eisenberg was still in germany. he hadn't left. a lot of scientists did leave
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and the important ones left and those important to the story of the bomb left germany to work in britain or america including otto frisch and rudolph piles who came to birmingham and they with first people to spell out exactly how an atomic bomb could be built and winston churchill had piles in mind, winston churchill said the reason we won the war was our germans were better than their german. what he had in mind was otto frisch and rudolph plum. anyway oppenheimer was haunted by the idea that the germans would get their first. you got to get this done quickly and it is no good having a bunch of scientists in chicago and some in colombia and some in berkeley. you have to get the mall in a single laboratory working with each other and also because this is such a sensitive job it needs to be in a remote place like new
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mexico. groves was so impressed by that none of the other considerations, the fact that oppenheimer wasn't an experimental physicist, some people said enrico fermi has a nobel prize, oppenheimer doesn't, groves wasn't worried about that and also made down the law, few people could lay down the law to j. edgar hoover but groves was one of them, giving this man security clearance and that is that so he appointed oppenheimer in charge of the laboratory. i couldn't resist including this. i am going on a bit. i couldn't resist including this photograph because a lot of people when they think of the manhattan project think of the laboratory loss alamosa. was a bunch of scientists working on a problem, terribly important but most of the 200,000 or so people who work
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for the manhattan project were not scientists working in loss alamos. most were women and they were women working in these kinds of conditions. groves solve the problem of isotopes separation, nobody had any idea how to do it. there was a possibility with centrifugal force or gas or electronic acceleration. groves started to build a planned for each possibility. so he bought this piece of real-estate in tennessee, built isotopes' separation plants, most people work for the manhattan project were working in places like this without the least idea what they were doing. they spend their working day looking at these machines and if it goes this way you need to turn this this way and they had no idea and the bomb dropped on hiroshima was what they're doing was creating material for an
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atomic bomb. the uranium bomb, the scientists were so convinced they got a physics right they didn't even bother testing it. it was known that you could build a bomb with uranium and plutonium. the only thing they thought would go wrong with the plutonium bomb, which is what they tested in the summer of 1945, was an unforgettable experience for everybody involved, oppenheimer later said the words came to his mind now i am become death, the destroyer of worlds. so they built two bonds, the fat man bomb exploded over nagasaki, the little boy bomb exploded over hiroshima and oppenheimer became a national hero by the end war so much so that when a semi popular journal was started called physics today, wanted a cover to represent the world of physics at that moment, and a hat on the cyclotron, so famous was oppenheimer that his task on
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a cyclotron was enough to say robert oppenheimer. he was so famous you didn't even need to have a picture of him. he moved from california to princeton, to take directorship of the institute. an ideal job for him in all sorts of ways but one of his main reasons for taking up the job was it moved him away from the west coast to the east coast because what he concentrated on after the second world war was not physics but politics. he spent a lot of time in washington advising the u.s. government on atomic policy, made some enemies by opposing the development of the hydrogen bomb. the hydrogen bomb is thousands of times more powerful than the hiroshima bomb. one argument he used was you don't need to develop this, you can't imagine using a bomb that
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powerful so why would you ever want to build it? the other argument was nobody knew how to build it at that stage. then the breakthrough, after which oppenheimer grudgingly said okay, it is technically sweet and prepared to see it being developed but by that time he had made very influential enemies in the corridors of power. two of the most important were edward teller, the hungarian physicist and made it his life's work to see the hydrogen bomb being developed and made and the head of the atomic energy commission, it is spelled strauss but spelled straw and between them grew suspicious of oppenheimer and actually they ended up hating him as did many of the most important people in the u.s. military establishment
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including people in the air force and so on the result of which was the famous 1954 hearings in which oppenheimer who few years earlier had been the most celebrated scientist in the united states had his cast scrutinized in great detail and his character and the hearing concluded he was not a fit man to be the bearer of military secrets, so he had his security clearance taken away from him and after that he was a broken man. he kept -- the usage at princeton to his great credit refused pressure to get rid of oppenheimer. he stayed in princeton as director and airily quickly a process of reconciliation between him and the american people began. ..
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who was very good in front of the camera and was very good at explaining very difficult physics to a popular audience. the other reconciliation was he was invited to japan. in this photograph remarkably he is 56 years old. he looks more like 86. you can see the toll that these events have taken on him. i think primarily the security
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hearing aged him about 20 years. here he is in japan with kitty. he was asked over and over again did he regret developing the bomb that destroyed hiroshima and then nagasaki? on every occasion he refused the invitation to say that he regretted it. of course you know he had misgivings about it but he would never say that he regretted it. i think for several reasons. one is that he generally believed that it brought a quick and, the hiroshima bomb. the nagasaki bomb thought it was necessary but the hiroshima bomb he thought was a quick end to the war and he also from niels bohr had the argument that you need to see the terrible power of this weapon in order to knock heads together so to speak, in order to get everybody to agree
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that what you want is world cooperation on the handling of this material so that this never happens again. the final reconciliation was when he was awarded the family prize for outstanding physicist. he was due to receive the award from jfk but after jfk's assassination he was given by president johnson. he was congratulated by edward teller, great reconciliation after 1954 and you see oppenheimer looking rather gracious in response to tellers gesture and kitty looking rather less so. [laughter] i will finish with these words from oppenheimer. oppenheimer took public interest to huge audiences, 2.5000 would come to hear. on the tone of his lecture because he started talking in a
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more personal way to, well sometimes on this occasion in the summer of 1962 a rather small audience but i will finish with these words that he said to the small audience. he said if i cannot be comforted by the argument it is because i'm too much attuned much too much christian much too much european far too much american for i believe in the meaningfulness of human history and of our role in it. above all of our responsibility to it. this seems to me a fairly decent way to end. thank you very much. [applause] [applause] >> thank you very much rate for doing something basically
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impossible. a beautiful book compressed into one hour. it is a variable to our nuclear empowerment. we have some time for some questions. i just want to warn you that this is all being taped by c-span so if you want to be audible please wait before you get to the microphone to ask your question. >> so do you have any questions? there is somebody in the back. oppenheimer's view change toward the end of the war when it began to become clear that germany was not getting -- to the bomb? >> thank you. the short answer is no but let me be slightly longer in my answer. it did he, parent and there seems to be a really interesting question. it became apparent a long time before.
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the germans didn't have a serious atomic bomb project. what i find really interesting about that is only one scientist left the manhattan project when that became clear and that was joseph rockland. rutland remembers being at los alamos hearing that there is no serious german bomb and all the scientists have been drawn to los alamos by oppenheimer saying look we have to build this thing before the germans do. and he remembers los alamos and being at a party talking to general groves and groves sang to him look he realized this has nothing to do with germany. it doesn't even have anything to do with japan. it's to do with showing our military might to the soviets and rot lance was so shocked by that. none of the other scientists even though they had come there
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to work in competition with the germans it was clear that they had won that competition and get none of them left. oppenheimer's views didn't change. oppenheimer served on the target committee that chose the targets for the atomic bomb and so was partly responsible for hiroshima being one of the targets. he together with other people persuaded them to drop kyoto off the list because of its treasures of buddhist architecture and its significance to buddhism but no, he used the image when you met president truman after the bombings. he said to truman mr. president i feel i have blood on my hands. and he did indeed have blood on his hands. he had the opportunity to
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support the chicago petition. the scientists of chicago drew up a petition signed by scientist urging the u.s. government not to use this bomb in the first instance on japanese civilians but to invite the japanese to a demonstration of its power which they thought would be enough. oppenheimer argued against that in his argument against that was it might fizzle and if it fizzles and it doesn't work then the demonstration has done more harm than good. but in any case no, his views did not change. but i think, i mean how do you deal with being responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people? that thought weighed heavily on him and i think had a lot to do with the rapid aging you can see in the photographs of oppenheimer between 45 and 1960.
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part of that was you know, the heartbreak of the security hearing but i think part of it also was carrying the burden of those deaths. but he always argued in public that he didn't regret it and that it had been necessary. i mean, one interpretation one could give to that is well, he had to does think that in order to stay sane. otherwise how do you cope with the fact that you have been responsible for all those deaths? i don't know, i am inclined to think that he did think hiroshima was necessary. the fbi that kept an eye on him at all times reported on the day the nagasaki bombing as being overruled and distressed -- overwrought and distressed.
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robert wilson has written about this in a lot of the scientists at los alamos did not see the point of the nagasaki bombing and i think oppenheimer didn't either but i think he did, he went to his death defending their hiroshima bombing. sorry. i think there was a -- yeah? >> you started with some comments about the diverse nature of this man's personality and you didn't spend too much time on that history but at the end of this, were those merely the languages in the writing, where does it means to the the d that he went to or were those things that he could have a come happily if he hadn't found the manhattan project? >> yeah, good.
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he took himself seriously as a writer as a young man. up until halfway through his studies at harvard when he suddenly abandoned his short story writing and concentrated on physics. nevertheless a long time after that, i mean his interest in hinduism came in the 30s and that is one he wrote sanskrit. he devoted a lot of time to discussing hindu literature with charles ryder who is an expert on hinduism so we never dropped that. so your question is if he had put all of his energy into the manhattan project, could we imagine him developing his interest in philosophy and literature and hinduism? said think the answer to that is yes, one can imagine that. i think one sees a benefit in
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his directorship of the institute because one of the things he did at the institute in the face of some very fierce opposition by the mathematicians here was to insist that it needs to broaden itself out of bed and he often uses price philosophers for example all the leading philosophers in the country. he knew which historians to invite. he knew which poets to invite. he was responsible for ts elliott coming here so i think actually his directorship of the institute gave him some way of expressing his polymath nick interest -- poly- medic interests. >> thank you very much. you entered your lecture with a quotation from oppenheimer. are you suggesting in that case that he was actually struggling with the dilemma of whether peace can be achieved through
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wars as in necessity, or whether peace should be achieved purely by peaceful means? i think he was struggling with that dilemma throughout his life. is that correct to say? >> i think it is correct to say yeah. i think that's right but i think also what is at the forefront of that quotation is to some extent a reversal of the position inspired by the hindu theater. the view that is expressed is that oppenheimer took from it was the view that one should do one's duty, whatever that duty is so if one is a soldier one has it duty to defend. if one is a politician -- so the idea was you should do your duty and leave everything else to other people. i think what one sees in that
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quotation is oppenheimer saying no he is actually too much of a christian, too much of an american to adopt that view and to adopt instead the view of saying look, all of this is my responsibility regardless so i have the future but i think what he is saying that the responsibility he feels for the outcome, the general outcome is not confined to him saying that he satisfied himself that he has done his duty as a scientist or whatever. so i think, that to me is -- >> two related questions. why did einstein have such a miniscule role in the project and in subsequent years what was the relationship between oppenheimer and einstein since the time at the institute overlaps several years.
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>> einstein didn't know a lot about vision. when he wrote that famous letter to president roosevelt it wasn't written by einstein. zoeller had the ability to realize that nobody had heard of him. [laughter] whereas everybody had heard of einstein so he realized and he had to explain what was going on. so zoeller and witmer, eugene wigner went to einstein's house. i think on that vote occasion it was long island. they went to the summer place that einstein was staying at in long island, explained what was going on and then got einstein to sign the letter einstein didn't want to pursue that work. he didn't have the background. he didn't have a field in
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physics and i think actually he would not have been acceptable to americans either. einstein was a bit dodgy. [laughter] the second part of your question was oppenheimer and einstein, that's an interesting and troubled relationship. oppenheimer really admired the work that einstein had done in the first two decades of the 20th century. you know, the famous work of 1905. oppenheimer thought that was tremendous and oppenheimer you know, at various stages in his life had quite a deep interest and general relativity. oppenheimer's paper on gravitational -- but when einstein started out dealing with niels bohr about quantum theory and how quantum theory, quantum mechanics
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couldn't be in the end true. there had to be a deeper explanation of what was going on in quantum mechanics. those famous debates oppenheimer clearly took the side of niels bohr and he thought einstein was out of it and einstein's days as the physicists were finished. you have the occasion when he visits here and he writes to his brother frank saying the institute is full of -- and it's a madhouse. [laughter] and einstein is crazy. and i think he continued to think einstein had just wasted himself. i think oppenheimer really thought that all the work einstein did from the time he arrived at the institute to his death was worthless. it was not popular view with einstein's family. >> on this optimistic note, we
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want to thank you again for this question and answer and of course the beautiful lecture but before that i actually want to invite all of you to continue the discussion in the common room. thanks again for one of full night. [applause] >> if kern county were a state it would be in the top five oil producers in the nation. to put this in a little more context, 75% of all of oil production in california is done in kern county and over 50% of the natural gas that is produced in california is right here and
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kern counties so we are really looking at in this county oil along with agriculture. they are the two largest industries that we have and it really turns the economy. >> explore the history and literary life of baker-finch's -- bakersfield california this weekend on c-span2's booktv. >> malcolm gladwell what is your book about? >> it's called david and goliath. underdogs misfits and the art of battling giants and it's about underdogs. i got really interested in telling the stories of people who seemed weak and powerless and yet cowan to accomplish great things and that was a puzzle in how they managed to do that which i thought was in the books of this is my legacy.
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>> back in in '09 he wrote a piece for "the new yorker" david versus goliath about that and i will let you tell the story but is that when your interest started? >> yeah, although i want to say nothing in that article in "the new yorker" made its way into the book but it is what got me thinking about it. it was an article i wrote about a guy starting with the story of a guy who is an indian, indian immigrant living in silicon valley and starts to coach's daughter's basketball team. they are all the daughters of software engineers from silicon valley and they can't pass, shoot, dribble. they can't do anything that resembles basketball and so he decides what he would do is play maniacal defense. they they're going to have a full-court press 100% of every game. and that proved so devastatingly effective that they won the national championship. the idea was that he responded
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to weakness, the fact that they had no basketball skills, by adopting and adapting in a way that proved to be pretty devastating and also by breaking the rules. no one would expect 12-year-old girls to play the full court press and it's a little bit unsporting. the skill level is such that you play the press can bring the ball up the court. it's an interesting example of someone who chose to rather than remain passive in the face of some kind of weakness to adapt and that adaptation is with this book is about. what are the strategies people use to respond to their own shortcomings? >> what are one of the examples you use in the book? >> well i really for example in talking about dyslexia. a whole chapter on why are so many successful entrepreneurs dyslexic wax it's a neurological problem. it's a deficit. it's a part of your brain that
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is not working properly. it's nothing you would wish on a child and yet in one case after another many of the most famous entrepreneurs we know have lived their whole lives with this devastating disorder. if you talk to them, they will tell you that they succeeded not in spite of this disorder but it taught them something about how to deal with the world that proved to be incredibly valuable in their career. and that is, there is something very beautiful about those and very moving about those kinds of stories. i tell a couple of them and it's a beautiful illustration of this sort of paradox i am interested in describing which is very often we learn more from our disadvantages than we do from art bandages. >> malcolm gladwell is there any connection between david and goliath the tipping point and outliers? >> i wish there were.
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i wish there were some grand unfolding narrative so i could argue that if you owned one you have to had to own them all but i don't think there is. i think they are, they have to be what i'm interested in at the time and i suppose they are all answers to the question, why does the world surprise us? why does the world not work the way we expected and that is the theme i keep coming back to. >> how long do you sit with an idea of? >> a long time. i mean i think about a book for years before i start writing it. i don't think, if you could ask the reader to commit it take chunk of their lives to your book, you have to correspondingly commit a big chunk of your life to that book. in other words you cannot expect people to make the investment in you if you don't take your time. so i take --
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i thought about this and collected ideas for years before he started writing it. >> some of the david and goliath stories that we have heard our military stories, the viacom versus the u.s. army. are those included in all in your book? >> the book starts with me retelling the actual david and goliath story which is not what you think. it's very different in reality. then i tell a story from vietnam about a guy who understood very early on that the viet cong was not to he thought they were in they weren't going to give up easily and no one would listen to him. that is because the military was, the american military in those years was not ,-com,-com ma like all of us i think, had difficulty with the notion that someone could he without obvious strengths, without money, men, weapons anything and still be a formidable opponent.
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that is what my book says. my book says the opposite. don't be fooled by the armor someone is wearing. what matters is the man inside the armor. >> how to tipping point change your life? >> well and mean i suppose it put me on the map as a writer. and so it paved the way for the success of my other books. it didn't change me personally. it just made my life, my professional life a little easier. people i suppose would -- faster than they used to let it didn't turn me into a different person for which i'm thankful. so it just was kind of, such a bizarre and happy accident that it did so well. i've been grateful ever since. >> do you you look at your books or do people look at your book says perhaps self-help books or
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business primer's? >> well you know all great book as our self-help looks in that they encourage others to look more closely at ourselves and what we think and how we behave and so in that sense they are. they are not how to change your life and seven easy steps but the reason i write them as i want people to take a step back and say, and just rethink their own experience. say oh that had not occurred to me or oh that is how i make sense of that or that sheds a whole new light on something that has happened to me. >> malcolm gladwell there is a regal lives are goliath and that is because they have been successful. how do they maintain their success? see that's a great question. the first half of my book is devoted to the ways in which goliath shoot themselves in the foot, the acquisition of success sows the seeds for failure and
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breaking out of that cycle is very very difficult. every single day we look around and we see once mighty institutions falling. the camera that is recording the show is by sony. sony was once the mightiest electronics company in the world than last year they lost $8.5 billion some people say they should shut down their electronics division. that is happened in 10 years. they have gone from the top of the heap to a situation where people say openly they should pack it in. you know, this country and we talk about vietnam. there has never been an individual country as powerful as america was in 1964 and what happened over the next 10 years? >> at non. we were humbled. so i mean there is something i
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think profoundly humbling about what happens to giants, to goliath and to be someone in the position of great authority and power is a more precarious position than i think most people realize. >> flight to goliath shoot themselves in in the foot? >> well there are many reasons. i explore just a couple. one is they assume the same strategies that made them great will keep them great. and that's not true. and two is they underestimate just how useful the struggle was, how creative it made them. when you don't have enough, when your business could shut down tomorrow, when you are constantly at the very end of your wits, you know i mean it in some cases you fold endive but
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if you don't you learn how to be innovative and to take chances and to take risks and do all kinds of things -- though you are propelled to do all kinds of things you wouldn't ordinarily do. when you get comfortable you you are no longer under that compulsion and that is a huge, that is a huge transition that many organizations or individuals can make. they simply forgot how useful there old disadvantage was. >> are there lessons to be learned from the american political system from david and goliath? >> you know i was a canadian and i had always very wary of holding -- the american political system. i don't know there are. i'm in the minority in this but as someone who is not from this country i'm always impressed at how good our political system is. look around the world.
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is there anyone who wouldn't trade the american system question of them are perfect. ours is imperfect. we all pay our taxes. we don't leave and people want to come here so it's like i don't think there's anything i could teach the system. the system as far as i can tell is done a pretty good job. >> are you a citizen? >> i remain a canadian. i cannot give up my canadian roots. >> malcolm gladwell when does david and goliath at the state's? >> the beginning october, october 1 of this year. >> this is booktv on c-span2 previewing the outcome gladwell's newest book david and goliath, october 2013 is when it hits the bookstores. thanks for watching booktv. >> anita raghavan talks about the rise and fall of the galleon group one of the largest hedge funds in the world. an insider trading scandal brought down the ferments several high-profile


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